As one of the Indian Country’s most visible and outspoken representatives, W. “Ron” Allen has led his tribe from no substantial external income to a current budget level of over million during his tenure in the past quarter-century. For the last decade he has served as chairman and president of the
Washington Indian Gaming Association, where he addresses not only regional tribal issues, but issues that affect Indian Country as a whole.
“I have spent a great amount of energy helping form a united front for tribes regarding policies and issues that affect us as tribal governments,” says Allen, who began his tribal leadership 35 years ago. “It is an ongoing responsibility to be united and protect our best interests. You have to keep your finger on the pulse of what is developing in the regulatory and lawmaking landscape.”
Allen has earned his reputation by building long-term relationships within both the tribal and U.S. gaming industries, but he still understands the importance of the general public having an accurate view of tribal gaming.
“Public sentiment is our reality check for our own strategies as we advance our own interests,” says Allen. “We have to continue to educate the general public about the resources and tools we provide for the betterment of our communities, along with the jobs we create and local and state revenue we provide for what people depend on.”
Members of the Jamestown S’ Klallam Tribe depend on Allen to protect their tribal sovereignty. As tribes begin to court internet gaming on their lands, as expected, Allen is right in the middle of the debate to make sure the tribes are properly represented and that regulatory agencies do not conveniently overlook the stellar performance by tribes at their gaming establishments.
“The question is, how should internet gaming be regulated?” asks Allen. “It is important that our performance history of meeting regulation and legislation be top-of-mind when these decisions are made. We are proud of our track record, and will continue to eliminate false perceptions about tribal gaming, whether it has to do with internet or brick-and-mortar operations.”
Allen’s list of career accomplishments includes executive and leadership positions with the National Congress of American Indians, the U.S./Canada Treaty for the Pacific Salmon Commission, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. With nearly four decades in public service, Allen is still going strong and has plenty of energy left for the internet gaming issue and others that will arise in the near future.
“As long as my colleagues feel that I am doing a good job, I am more than happy to represent them in front of local, state and national leaders,” says Allen, who, at age 65, wants to continue in his leadership positions for another 10 to 15 years. “The general public still serves as a good reality check to see if certain elements of our agenda are reasonable, and they will continue to see our tribal nations benefit our communities, which has led to the upward mobility we have experienced over the last 25 years.”